As opioid crisis strains foster care, states aren’t tracking the damage
By Byard Duncan
New Hampshire social workers are all too familiar with how opioid abuse can push children into foster care. They see it all the time.
The chain of events is often the same: After being approached by social workers, addicted parents continue to overdose or start dodging them. State officials deem the home unsafe and seek a court’s permission to remove the children.
Then comes a knock at the family’s door.
It’s a last resort, reflecting what appears to be a stark trend across the state: Since 2010, the number of child removals in which substance abuse was a factor has nearly quadrupled. The number of children entering out-of-home care has nearly doubled. And between 2012 and 2016, the number of children born drug exposed tripled.
Yet directly connecting child removals to the source of the problem is nearly impossible. That’s because in New Hampshire’s electronic child welfare database, there’s no way to specify opioids – or any other drug – as a contributing factor.